Irish Fest spotlight

Hurling – The great game with a funny name

By - Aug 20th, 2011 04:00 am
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Known throughout the world for its unmatched array of Celtic arts, Milwaukee’s own Irish Fest is set for what will most likely be another well-attended run this weekend.

But amidst all the songs, dance, poetry, and theatre, Irish Fest has also maintained a commitment to another touchstone of Irish culture: the love of sports. And amongst the tug o’ war and curragh racing, there is “the Hurling,” an ancient sport founded in combat and celebrated to this day by hundreds of thousands of athletes and fans around the globe.

(Helmet cam video courtesy of the MHC)

The Milwaukee Hurling Club will host demonstrations and matches today and tomorrow, at the field just north of the festival grounds. Inside the grounds, the MHC booth (located in the Cultural Village) will offer its ever-popular “hitting tube” – a chance for aspiring hurlers to swing a stick – as well as youth demos, merchandise, and signup opportunities.

Surprising at it might seem, Milwaukee is home to the largest hurling club in North America, and, according to some sources, the largest outside of Ireland itself. The Milwaukee Hurling Club, which was founded sixteen years ago and which has been a part of Irish Fest for nearly as long, now numbers more than 300 playing members, including men, women, and children.

Photo from MHC 2006 season by Kristin Sullivan/Courtesy of Off Center Photo.

While the Club has been honored by the sport’s governing organization (the Dublin-based Gaelic Athletic Association), for its commitment to the furthering of Éire’s national sport, it maintains a stubbornly American outlook on its approach. For example, all of the ten teams it fielded last year are co-ed. Women and men compete together in tough combat on the field – a concept that’s unheard of in Ireland. The players are also a uniquely American blend – only a very few are native-born Irish; the rest have simply been drawn into the sport because they enjoy it.

The Club also sponsors a camogie team (the women-only variation of the sport), which took the Junior B Title at the 2010 North American County Board Championships.

So what does hurling involve? To the casual stateside observer, it resembles a mixture of lacrosse, rugby, soccer, and baseball. The field is set up much like a soccer pitch, but slightly wider. Players, arranged 15 per side, are armed with arm-length ashwood sticks (or “hurleys”) that they use to move a baseball-sized leather “sliotar” (ball) down the field toward a goal. Nicknamed “the fastest game on grass,” hurling requires speed, skill and bravado, making the sport extremely exciting for spectators.

The action comes to a climax Sunday, August 28, as the Club winds up its season at its home field of Brown Deer Park with the Championship Match at 11 a.m. The public, as always, is welcome.

For more information on the Milwaukee Hurling Club at Irish Fest, click here. 

Categories: Life & Leisure

0 thoughts on “Irish Fest spotlight: Hurling – The great game with a funny name”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Amazing video. Love the Megadeth’s Hangar 18 song at the end!

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